A Texas defense attorney has been arrested and accused of being a “major supplier” of dangerous drugs in the jail by sneaking inmates papers filled with drugs, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said.
Ronald Henry Lewis, 77, was charged with two felony counts of bringing a prohibited substance into a correctional facility, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez announced at a news conference Monday.
Gonzalez said the sheriff’s office created the jail’s Criminal Investigations and Security division in March to stem the flow of drugs into the jail after its medical clinic “saw more and more people requiring emergency treatment for what appeared to be as acute overdoses.”
In June, after the deaths of two inmates possibly related to overdoses, an investigation was launched into drugs being smuggled into the prison in the form of paper “that was sprayed or dipped with a chemical compound,” said Lt. Jay Wheeler .
A month later, the unit received information that a lawyer was bringing illegal drugs to several inmates in the prison.
Investigators determined that a lawyer visited the inmates and gave them sheets of paper, often disguised as legal mail or legal documents, that were filled with drugs such as ecstasy and synthetic marijuana. In return, the inmates would pay $250 to $500 for the papers, Gonzalez and Wheeler said.
Tips from the jail led investigators to identify Lewis, and a warrant was issued on Nov. 9.
“When Mr. Lewis visited the prison last Friday, November 17, our team was ready. They arrested Mr. Lewis and found him carrying several sheets of paper contaminated with a substance that is now being tested to confirm if it is indeed an illegal narcotic,” Gonzalez said.
At the time of his arrest, Lewis was found with 11 sheets of paper suspected of being laced with drugs, Wheeler said.
From July to November of this year, Lewis visited a total of 14 inmates, and a total of 154 sheets of paper filled with narcotics were confiscated from the jail, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said investigators are working with the Texas Rangers to see if any drugs Lewis introduced to the jail led to the effort’s death.
Officials said Monday that other attorneys are believed to be involved in narcotics showing up at the jail and that the investigation is ongoing.
According to the State Bar of Texas, Lewis has been a licensed attorney since 1982.
He has since been released from jail after posting $15,000 bail. NBC News has reached out to his attorney for comment.